Natalie Imbruglia is a 23-year-old singer from Down Under who got attention a few years ago on an Australian soap opera called Neighbours.

She moved to London to pursue her career as an actress and singer, but by 1996 she decided Los Angeles was the place to be. In California, she recorded her album, Left of the Middle (RCA), which was released in the United States on March 10.

Though she was living in the States, it was fans in the United Kingdom who fell in love the quickest, just after her first single, "Torn", hit radio waves. The song was written by former Cure band member Phil Thornalley and mixed by Nigel Godrich, who did Radiohead's Grammy-nominated album "OK Computer".

"Torn" sold a million copies in the United Kingdom. The song tells the story of a relationship gone wrong, and the pain in Imbruglia's voice is powerful as she sings, ''Nothing's fine; I'm torn/ I'm all out of faith/ This is how I feel/ I'm cold an I'm shamed/ Lying naked on the floor.''

Saturday Night Live's producers tuned into the buzz surrounding Imbruglia and booked her to perform on the show three days before her album was released in the United States.

Though she didn't write "Torn", Imbruglia did write the majority of the tracks on "Left of the Middle". Her realistic lyrics and pop-rock sound are sure to appeal to a wide audience. On "Big Mistake", Imbruglia speaks to a scorned lover: ''And you're down on your knees/ It's too late/ Oh don't come crawlin'/ And you lie by my feet/ What a big mistake.'' The song could become the next anthem for women tormented by their unfaithful ex-boyfriends.

Imbruglia switches to a haunting sound on the songs "Leave Me Alone" and "Smoke". "Smoke" is a tear-filled ballad about a father who was never around.

On "Pigeons and Crumbs", Imbruglia seems to be thinking aloud about how to find peace of mind. She sings the song in a sweet, soft voice.

Imbruglia's vocals are extremely powerful on the tunes "Don't You Think" and "Impressed". "Don't You Think" has an empowering effect as she sings about how facing reality is a tough prospect. "Impressed" was inspired by people Imbruglia encountered in Los Angeles. She was tired of meeting people who faked their sincerity. The track has electronic beats in the background that sound like they came from a Prodigy song.

Imbruglia also covers the subject of her loneliness while living in London on the track called "City". As on many of the album's songs, the electric guitars play a prominent role. The final song on the album is the title track, "Left of the Middle". It is an acoustic ballad that finishes off her round of serious soul-searching.

Imbruglia is no flavor of the month. Her album is too brilliant to fade away. It is early in the year to say this, but she could be the biggest thing to hit the music scene in 1998. Her music holds messages anyone can relate to, and her universal appeal equals staying power.

- Todd Fletcher

© 2002 - Hidden - Natalie Imbruglia